Private practice in the dentistry field: Dr. Anil Dwivedi on why dentists need to be 'smarter consumers'

For the past 23 years, Anil Dwivedi, DMD, a dentist in private practice in Tysons Corner, Va., has seen overhead costs go up and reimbursement failing to follow suit. Dentists today have the option to employ innovative technology, implants and consider regenerative products, but these solutions often carry a high price tag and many dentists in private practice struggle to stay competitive in the field.

"One of the biggest challenges has been the increase in costs associated with private practice and the decrease in insurance reimbursement," Dr. Dwivedi says. "Dental insurance has not evolved as medical insurance has. The maximum coverage 23 years ago is the same as it is now with most policies."

Despite procedures improving, many policies are not covering the latest procedures to hit the dentistry field, with Dr. Dwivedi saying insurance policies often do not cover implants and bone regenerative procedures. Coupled with the dearth of coverage, many employers are eyeing Preferred Provider Organizations as a means to rein in costs. Although beneficial to employers, PPOs may often reduce allowable charges, posing obstacles for dentists in private practice.

However, independence may be sustainable for dentists if they become well-versed in various strategies.

1. Educate your patients. Many patients are unaware their policies only cover some procedures, and therefore discussing their coverage and how far it extends with patients is crucial. Dr. Dwivedi said dental insurance is actually "dental assistance."

"They get approximately $1,500 in benefits toward a $3,000 to $5,000 procedure," he adds. "It is difficult to get good results when the patient only wants to do covered procedures."

2. Consider contracting with big insurance plans. Large payers often have an extensive network of consumers and vendors, including suppliers and dental labs. The dominant insurance companies established relationships with suppliers and labs to get their members truncated fees and other benefits.

3. Compare suppliers' prices. Dr. Dwivedi advises dentists to "become smarter consumers." Use your resources, such as computers and staff members, to compare suppliers' prices. Although doing the research may be time-consuming, it could save your practice a substantial amount of capital and therefore dentists should not readily overlook the importance of shopping around.

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